The joint maverick Irish Republican Army operation that also included the Continuity IRA
Although members of the 'Real' IRA and CIRA are not permitted to avail of early release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, INLA members have been released.
"These are new names for the same group of terrorists, still controlled by the 'Education Minister' Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams"
The INLA helped mount the Omagh bomb attack, Ireland on Sunday can reveal. January 27th 2002
This dramatic disclosure will inevitably further anger relatives of the Omagh victims campaigning for the bombers to be brought to justice.
The INLA formally declared a ceasefire two weeks after the atrocity. But they had carefully cultivated the impression that they were on defacto ceasefire for months beforehand and have never admitted any involvement in Omagh AMIDST the acrimony, anguish and triumph of last week, one remark - by PSNI Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan - more than any other summed up the nation's feelings about the Omagh massacre: "The sadness is we know who committed this crime."For the reality is that Colm Murphy - jailed for 14 years on Friday for his part in the atrocity - is still the only member of the 16-member gang behind the August 1998 bomb blast to face charges relating to Omagh. The Gardai and the PSNI know who the IRA squad are; they also know how the attack - in which 29 innocent people died - was carried out. But they can't charge one more of the suspects who hide behind a wall of silence and the terror their murderous activities instill in their local communities. All the suspects have been interrogated at length by the gardai... but none has confessed. In time-honoured Republican tradition, their usual modus operandi is to say nothing and stare at a blank wall.There is little hard evidence against the key players. Ironically, when the Omagh bomb exploded, it destroyed much of the evidence that would normally be used to back up a criminal charge.There are no fingerprints, no DNA samples. Most damningly of all, the blast also killed many potential witnesses.It is consolation to the victims' families that most of the bombers are currently in jail, either charged with other terrorist offences or convicted for crimes by gardai. A small few are still at large and have gone into hiding. One is on the run.The trail of clues the gang left behind them, although insufficient to secure a conviction in a court, has enabled Ireland on Sunday to piece together the full details of how the Real IRA mounted the Omagh attack.And, for the first time, we can reveal that the bomb blast was mounted in conjunction with the Continuity IRA and the INLA. Although the three terrorist organisations hold differing political idealogies, they worked side by side on this operation. The maroon-coloured Vauxhall Cavalier L used in the bombing, for example, was supplied by the INLA who hired local car thieves to steal the car. The thieves probably thought the Republicans would use the vehicle for a robbery or some such crime. What they didn't realise was that they were dealing with middlemen for the Real IRA.
Using the name "Oglaigh na hEireann", the Real IRA was carrying out a deadly bombing campaign across Northern Ireland.
The fledgling group included experienced Republican terrorists and much of its membership came from south Armagh, Monaghan and north Louth.
The collective posed a serious threat to the peace process. A stream of attacks were organised in Northern Ireland, often with the Real IRA simply providing the INLA and CIRA with sophisticated bomb making expertise.
The INLA, for example, acted alone in bombing Netownhamilton in south Armagh on June 24. The Real IRA simply supplied the INLA with the Semtex booster used in the 300 lb charge.
Omagh was always likely to be targeted given its proximity to the border.
The attack itself was planned and conducted by two men, one of them the Real IRA's "Officer Commanding" (OC) for Louth/Armagh. This man is Liam Campbell, a former member of the IRA and a smuggler who had been banned from entering Northern Ireland. Campbell is currently serving a seven year sentence imposed by the Special Criminal Court for membership of the Real IRA.
Campbell's accomplice, an IRA veteran from Co Monaghan, supervised events on the day. This man is currently on the run.
The INLA passed the Vauxhall to Campbell's men who took it to a small farm in Cullloville in Co. Monaghan and transformed into a car bomb.
It was given new registration plates, dismantled and fitted with heavy-duty shock absorbers similar to those used in trucks. Next it was filled with bags of ground-down fertiliser mixed with icing sugar.
Inserted into the explosive mix were steel tubes packed with Semtex to boost the bomb's explosive power. The bombers then installed a detonating device, handmade by the group's director of engineering - a motorcycle courier from Dublin, called The Technician.
By the end of the process, the Vauxhall was a 300 lb car bomb primed for use. More than 60 people played a role in the conspiracy.
That same night, Friday, August 14, 1998, Seamus Daly, a seasoned Republican from Culloville in Co. Monaghan, borrowed two mobile phones from his boss, Colm Murphy. Daly worked as a bricklayer for Murphy, who runs a building firm from his home in Dundalk.
Murphy had strong Republican credentials. A former member of the Provisional IRA, he joined the INLA before realigning himself with the Continuity IRA.
He agreed to lend the phones to his employee and met Daly in Dundalk's Emerald Bar that night. As customers around them enjoyed their drinks, Murphy gave Daly his Nokia handset and also one belonging to Terence Morgan, his foreman. Morgan had no idea what was going on and was an innocent pawn in Murphy's game.
Murphy knew why Daly wanted the phones and it was the second time he had complied with such a request. On the previous occasion, August 1, Banbridge town had been blow up.
The next day, Saturday, August 15, the organisation put the phones to use. That morning, Daly and Seamus McKenna, another member of the Real IRA, were due to catch a bus to a construction site at Dublin City University, some 40 miles away, but they never showed up.
Instead, armed with the borrowed mobiles, the bombers delivered the 300 lb car bomb to Omagh with support from dozens of other suspects.
The bombers used at least two cars in convoy, each carrying two men. The first vehicle scouted the route for police checkpoints while the second was the bomb car.
The bombers set off from Co. Monaghan across the border to Omagh shortly before midday and exchanged more than 24 telephone calls before the afternoon was out.
Gardaí, using sophisticated software, subsequently traced each call to the nearest telephone mast. The first call was logged at 12.41pm and was made from Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan, 48 miles from Omagh. At 1.39pm, the bombers had reached the border village of Aughnacloy.
The scout car arrived on the outskirts of Omagh first and waited at a beauty spot called Pigeon Top Mount for several minutes while the bomb car went into the town centre.
A call relayed to a nearby mast at 1.57pm put Colm Murphy's mobile phone at Bridge Street, just yards from where the car bomb was abandoned.
At 2.10 pm, "The Supervisor" in the scout vehicle spoke by mobile phone to Campbell, who stayed south of the border. At 2.19 pm the bomb car contacted the scout vehicle, and at 2.20 pm the bomb car moved into its final position and was parked outside SD Kells draper shop at 35-37 Market Street.
Phone records indicate that the phone carried by the driver of the scout car was in Omagh town centre minutes later.
At 2.30pm, 40 minutes before the blast, two men were seen getting out of the bomb car and walking towards Campsie Road, which leads out of the town. These men were never identified but were probably collected by a scout car minutes later.
At 2.29pm, the first of three warning calls was made from a telephone box at McGeough's Crossroads in Forkhill, south Armagh to UTV.
The bombers were heading south.
The caller said the bomb was outside Omagh Court.
Two minutes later, a member of the Real IRA rang the Samaritans in Omagh, but the call was diverted to Colraine. The caller repeated the warning.
When asked to clarify the location, speaking in a "quiet gentle voice", he said: "Two-hundred yards up from the courthouse."
The third warning came at 2.31pm and was made from Newtownhamilton.
The confused warnings led the RUC to believe a bomb was about to go off at Omagh Court House.
In trying to get people to safety, officers shepherded them towards the bomb.
When it exploded at 3.10pm, 400 yards from the courthouse, it killed 29 people, including the mother of unborn twins - 259 people were injured.
Three minutes after the explosion, there were more telephone calls. However the actions of one of the gang indicates that within minutes of the blast, the bombers realised that something had gone wrong. He called the mother of his children to see if they were safe.
The Real IRA went to ground almost immediately but Daly and another of the bomb team were more brazen. That night, back in Co. Louth, they gathered in the Emerald Bar frequented by Real IRA men and got quietly drunk.
Although the bomb was detonated in Northern Ireland, those responsible lived south of the border. Hence the gardaí were tasked with tracking down the terrorists.
An incident room was opened in Monaghan Garda Station under the direction of Assistant Commissioner Kevin Carty, who had spent much of his career on anti-terrorist duties. He was all too familiar with terrorists, having headed Operation Silo, the garda offensive aimed at breaking the IRA during the 1980s.
The hunt was on.
The investigation team led by Det. Supt Tadgh Foley in Monaghan and Det Chief Superintendent Mick Finnegan in Louth made dozens of arrests but none of the prime suspects would speak.
At the same time, the officers began the painstaking task of checking each and every mobile telephone call relayed through all mobile phone masts in the region on the day of the bombing.
In total, the detectives examined over 40,000 individual calls in an attempt to find similarities. After months of laborious work, they traced the calls made on the phones of Murphy and Morgan.
Working off these calls, the gardaí built up a picture of the Real IRA unit involved in the attack. A phone owned by Oliver Traynor, a Republican who sells plastic windows in Dundalk, received a text message from the point where the third phone call warning of the bomb was made. Phones registered in his name were also in the vicinity of Lisburn and Newry when those towns were attacked by the Real IRA.
Murphy was placed under surveillance and eventually arrested on February 21, 1999.
At first, he denied any knowledge of the attacks, explaining to gardaí that he was drinking in his local pub when the bomb went off.
The gardaí asked if he was involved in Omagh.
"I know nothing about it," he insisted.
As the interrogation proceeded, the gardaí showed how they had traced his mobile phone to Omagh on the day of the bombing. He continued to deny any role in Omagh but eventually started making hints to the effect that if they traced everyone called from the phone, they would find out who had borrowed it.
When pressed on this he said: "Look. What can I say? I could finish out in the border with a hole in my head."
"Who did you give your phone to Colm?" asked another interrogator.
"I can't tell you his name. I only gave him a loan of the phones."
When asked if it was Seamus Daly, he said: "There, you knew all along."
Colm Murphy was charged before the Special Criminal Court. After hearing 25 days of damning evidence which proved beyond doubt he was guilty, the court returned a guilty verdict.
He was sentenced to 14 years.
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